On Thursday, August 6, Rancho Santa Fe resident Rick Nicholas hosted a Community Water Talk with Don Billings at the RSF Golf Club. Billings is a Solana Beach resident and former chairman of the Independent Water Rates Oversight Committee.
Many community members came together to listen to Billings in an effort to try to identify ways to prevent increased water costs, reduced property values, and lower the risk of fires in the region. Billings claimed that there is, in fact, a drought in some parts of the state, but each county must use different measures that are suitable for their local water needs.
“This community is not the cause of the drought in California… This community has contributed, disproportionately, to creating the solutions,” Billings said.
He believes water conservation is everyone’s responsibility, but communal efforts must be made to address short term solutions that are specific to the San Diego region.
The idea for the community water talk was formed to offer an alternative perspective to the Santa Fe Irrigation District’s community town hall, which was held on July 8.
Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order to reduce water usage in the state. Billings disagrees with the declaration of the statewide drought, which calls for 25% water use reduction. Some attendees agreed with Billings’ position while others supported the statewide efforts to save water.
Over 25 residents showed up to discuss how the community could address repercussions of California’s drought policies. Things like “Severe Drought” freeway signs, tiered penalties, and water rate increases in Rancho Santa Fe have the potential to negatively impact the community.
The import of water from Colorado, for use by San Diegans, is one main reason Billings says there is no drought in the southern region of California.
“There’s a sense that somehow California water is this big tub of water and every region is sticking a straw in that big tub of water. And if one person draws less out of that straw, there would be more water for others. That’s simply not true, in the case of San Diego. It’s a different pot of water than the pot of water for Northern California… You’re not helping anybody else and you’re not suffering from a drought,” he said.
It is said that the Desalination Plant in Carlsbad will be producing 50-56 million gallons of new water (from the ocean) which will be enough for 400,000 people and at the same time, Metropolitan Water Districts will be importing additional water from Colorado, which residents will be purchasing, according to Billings. He added that with a one-third population increase, San Diego has managed to reduce total water use by 12%. The county’s systems to conserve, produce and import water have allowed the county to be well prepared for droughts.
As Billings presentation went on, he noted the drought and water supply issues in the Central Valley are of their own making and reducing water use in San Diego County would not help relieve the drought issues in that region for the local farmers.
“We could rip up every blade of grass here and we are not going to help the farmers in the Central Valley,” he said.
Proposed solutions to the drought in San Diego would include putting pressure on the Water District to sue the State of California. Billings mentioned he received this advice from a Santa Fe Irrigation District member. This year, the City of Riverside filed a lawsuit which would prevent the state from imposing mandatory drought restrictions in the city, simply because it has its own groundwater sources.